Rhonda, an African American girl from an urban, working class family, saw herself as a leader among her friends.
Below you will find word-for-word excerpts taken from interviews conducted in 1998 as part of a Facing History and Ourselves evaluation study. Please note that the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the students. Also please note that the voices on the audio recordings are those of actors, and are not the actual voices of the students originally interviewed.
The Fall of Eighth Grade: Rhonda's perspective on the original incident.
RHONDA: Last year, it was a real big thing from like December to the end of the year, where this girl named Sue, like, she said some stuff to me about my, like, best friend, and, like, Sue was my best friend at the time. But then she was good friends with the other people too, but she went behind… Sue was talking about people behind their backs, ‘cause you know, there’s a boy named Tony, and Jill used to go out with Tony. And Sue and Jill were, like, really good friends. And Jill didn’t like Tony and she wanted to break up with him. And Sue was, like, helping her break up with him. But then she wrote me a letter saying that Jill was ignorant to break up with Tony. And so, I showed Jill that, and Jill got mad. And then Sue got mad at me because she said in the letter don’t show this to anybody, but I showed it anyway, ‘cause I felt obligated to show it to her because it wasn’t, like, right for Sue to do something like that. Then we all got mad at each other.
The Fall of Eighth Grade: Rhonda's perspective on the aftermath of the original incident.
RHONDA: All these people started taking sides and, like, the teachers took Sue’s side because they thought we was being, like, really mean to Sue when she really was...They wasn’t... What they did was they, they always said “Sue what happened?” they never said “okay, Tina, Jill, and Rhonda what happened?”…The teachers never heard our, they heard her side, but they didn’t, like, they felt sorry for Sue and so they made, and around, like, all that. During that time period from December to June the teachers was mean to us and they didn’t like listen to us. And they held grudges against us because what happened to, and the teachers, like, they held grudges against us because Sue told them, or Sue was crying about this, Sue was doing that, never, they never say 'Sue did things to us and we did things back to Sue', but Sue never seemed to tell them what she did to us…To everybody who was part of our group, everybody who was on our side, got degraded. Everybody who was on Sue’s side got, like, they was sympathizing for Sue, so they sympathized for them and was more lenient towards them.
The groups changed significantly. There was more people on our side than on Sue’s side, but the teachers was on Sue’s side. So then it seemed like teachers were, like, the teachers together would probably be more than as many kids as was on our side. So that the teachers had more, they have more power than us, so they can do whatever they want. Not whatever they want, but they would do a lot of things. But there were still people who, like, wasn’t even in it that got into it anyway, and so, but it, it just, it... It was a real big problem last year and we had, like, mediation and all these other things.
What they was doing is putting parents into it, and our parents had nothing to do with it and like I got in trouble because the guidance counselor called my father and told him that I was helping in part of this little grudge held against Sue or stuff like that and she never said anything about what Sue did, which really made me mad, and I got in trouble for that. And, like, I guess everybody else, like, got talked to by their parents about whatever, and nobody never, nobody never said anything about what Sue did, so that’s how we figured everybody was on Sue’s side. And people... I still don’t talk to her now, ‘cause I don’t like to forgive and forget, I don’t like to forgive something that wasn’t resolved at all...
The Spring of Eighth Grade: Rhonda's point of view on the incident and its aftermath.
RHONDA: What we did was really, really wrong. I regret it now…because I think it was stupid…Well, I treated Sue really, really bad. And I don’t think it’s right now, but I can't do anything to change that, but were friends now. So, it's kind of changed how it was. I didn't change it, really, but I kind of made it better…
And, cause we were good friends before, and, so, we shouldn’t have wasted a good friendship just because of that…. We’re friends. I don’t know, we just started talking… we just talked in the classes together… I don't know. I can't really explain it. It's just, we’re friends now.
INTERVIEWER: Did you and Sue ever talk about what happened?
RHONDA: Yeah. It's funny now. We find it pretty funny. We laugh at it now but, it wasn't funny then.
The Spring of Eighth Grade: Rhonda's perspective on the adults' role in relation to the incident.
RHONDA: There was no need to have parents involved. So you might as well - that made me, at the time, made me more, like, I would say, it made me mad again.... Because teachers got parents into it. And, parents had nothing to do with it. And at the time, it just made me go, like it just made me go and do stuff. Worse.
>> What stands out for you about Rhonda’s perspective on the incident?
>> If you were an adult in Rhonda's life (e.g. teacher, parent) what would you want her to consider that was not apparent in her perspective on the incident? What if you were one of her peers?